How to ensure commercial “dream” project didn’t turn into a nightmare.
For Olympic athletes, the dream doesn’t begin when they compete at the Olympics; the dream truly begins years before when first thinking about competing and then training to make the Olympics. That was the concept behind, “The Dream Begins Here,” a recent commercial project for Bed Gear created by Emmy-award winning video production company Artsis Media.
Featuring Lindsay Van, an American ski jumper, the commercial is a creative and entertaining approach to the type of commitment it takes to be an Olympic athlete – playing up the long hours Van spent on the mountain during training. So many hours, in fact, that it’s as if she never goes home, sleeping on the mountain and dreaming about competing in the Olympics…all while resting on a bed covered with luxuriously comfortable sheets and pillowcases furnished by Bed Gear.
For Michael Artsis, founder and president of Artsis Media, this “dream” shoot was an amazing opportunity to develop an iconic TV commercial in perfect alignment with the client’s brand. As is often the case with such projects, numerous challenges needed to be overcome to meet the client’s expectations, including having to rent a mountain in Utah, capturing everything in one day – featuring eight hours at night on the mountain – and then completing post-production against a tight deadline.
SMALL TREE’S TITANIUMZ-8 SHARED STORAGE SYSTEM GIVES ARTISIS MEDIA PEACE OF MIND ON POST-PRODUCTION
Having to rent a mountain and with Van scheduled to leave for the Sochi Olympics, Artsis would only have one shot at capturing the footage he needed. So the ability to eliminate any variables on this mission critical project would enable Artsis to focus solely on the task at hand.
“We chose Small Tree’s shared storage system because we knew it was the one thing we wouldn’t have to worry about,” Artsis said. “If we could pull off the shoot and get all of the acquisition done, we knew we didn’t have to worry about getting the footage back and storing it safely through the editing process. Any time you can cut down on your variables, your question marks, your possible flaws in your system or your workflow, that’s the best thing you can do and what we were able to do with Small Tree.”
For this project, Artsis decided to shoot in raw format, using a Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera.
Shooting in raw format made it a lot more robust, yet larger and harder to deal with. It also created a lot more requirements for post.
“The great thing was that we didn’t have to be concerned about how fast the shared storage system was going to work, or how fast the edit or rendering process would be, even with raw format,” Artsis remarked. “A 30 second commercial is only a 30 second commercial, but there’s so much that goes into it. And with raw format there’s a much more expansive workflow – the footage takes up so much more storage and has much higher performance requirements for editing, but we didn’t have any of those problems because we had Small Tree’s TitaniumZ.”
After production was complete, Artsis learned that the deadline for post-production, which included cutting four versions of the commercial and eight web videos, had been moved up. To meet the shortened deadline, the studio had all eight of its workstations – five Mac desktops, one Windows PC and two MacBook Pro laptops – connected to the TitaniumZ-8 system and running simultaneously.
“We were at our max capacity,” Artsis admitted. “We had one workstation where we captured the footage on to the TitaniumZ storage and we just made sure that everything being captured was perfect; that there weren’t dropped frames or missed footage. To be safe, we did two captures; not only capturing the footage from the cards but from the backup hard drives as well to make sure we had everything. We also shot a backup, recorded to a memory card and also recorded to an Atomos Ninja. We had someone capturing and combing through the footage, finding the best material and marking it up. Then we would sift through the footage, bring it into Da Vinci on the Windows PC and start the round-tripping process.”
With the short turnaround time, a lot of pieces were moving all at once at Artsis Media. Once the footage was brought into Da Vinci Resolve, a member of the post-production team put a LUT on it because it wasn’t color-corrected yet and needed to be shown to the client – adding the LUT provides a color profile that is easy to turn on and off and, most importantly, is non-destructive so it can be sent to Adobe Premiere to show the client what the project looks like. The LUT was also useful when composing original music for the commercial, as developing music is often based on feelings established through visuals. Without color correction and color grading completed, the LUT simulated the commercial’s final “look.”
“While this was taking place,” Artsis revealed, other team members started video-editing (for the TV commercial) and developing still images from the raw format video footage (for a print campaign) on the Macs. At our busiest point, we had eight people working from different workstations– all of which were connected to Small Tree’s TitaniumZ-8 to make sure our workflow wasn’t compromised. The amazing thing was that before this project started we had just acquired the Windows PC, so this was the first time we would be using the Windows PC with the TitaniumZ solution. Small Tree helped us set it up remotely and it worked flawlessly. In fact, the Windows PC was probably our most robust machine. It worked great during color correcting and was more capable of handling high resolution footage because it was newer than our other machines.”
When looking back at the project, how quickly it came together, the pressure involved with having to make certain that all of the footage was obtained during a one day shoot without any safety net, and the short timeframe to turn it all around to get to the client for approval, there’s only one thing Artsis would do differently. “I would have used Small Tree’s TitaniumZ-5 portable shared storage system on-site during the shoot,” Artsis admits. “With that solution on location I would have been able to worry even less, as I would have shot right into the shared storage system, if not just running the cards right off into it.”
In the end, while there were some concerns along the way about this project, having the TitaniumZ-8 in the studio for post-production provided substantial peace of mind.
“If we didn’t have the TitaniumZ, I would have been thinking about our render times and whether we might burn out hard drives by running them as hard and as long as we were,” Artsis concluded. “But because of Small Tree and my confidence in their system’s capabilities, I was confident we’d get the job done.”
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